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Little Egret

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A distinctive pure white bird with long legs and neck. Seen near water across Dorset.


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Little Egret: new horizons

Post date: Thursday, 29 January, 2015 - 00:00

A common sight in Dorset these days is the elegant little egret (Egretta garzetta). Despite its fondness for feeding in muddy places it always looks immaculate in its pure white attire. 

When I started out 'birding' back in the 1970's seeing a little egret was a major event but by the mid-eighties they had established as a UK breeding species and now they can be seen as far north as Inverness. I remember getting a phone call one morning, it must have been 1987, from someone we knew who said he had seen a albino heron in the field opposite his house in Stockbridge, Hampshire. Within 20 minutes I was there and was delighted to a little egret feeding alongside the River Test; that was the first one I had seen inland and some distance from the coast.
The spread of the little egret has been quite remarkable and that gives rise to speculation that possibly the spoonbill, which is now a frequent visitor to Poole harbour, and possibly the cattle egret may colonise our shores as well.  Indeed, the spoonbill does now nest in this country but that is a different story.
Frequent seen around Poole and Christchurch harbours nowadays but you can also find them inland along the fields near our main rivers. I have seen fifteen or more near Shillingstone on the Stour, five in fields near Wareham by the river Frome and also one on the stream in Bere Regis. Expect them anywhere in the county now.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Little Egret
Scientific Name Egretta garzetta
Status Frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Herons, Egrets and Bitterns
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Mudflats
  • Lakes and ponds
  • Rivers
  • Harbours, estuaries and lagoons
Look for A white heron with black bill and black legs
Additional Identification Notes
  • A rarity until the 1980's but now our most common heron/egrat species
  • A;ways immaculately groomed in white but the black legs and bill distinguish it from other white egrets which tend to be much rarer
  • Can now be seen not only on the coast but on rivers, lakes and ponds inland too